Today has been a day for Vital Statistics- including the fact that a record 599 Irish trained horses are entered in the Festival, and that Willie Mullins has top or joint top weight in 5 of the 11 Handicaps.
This has been the day when Cheltenham welcomes The Press(for want of a better description) to walk, to talk, to eat and to mull- as the final entries and the handicap weights- including just 195 of them this year for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle are revealed.
It might just as well have been the AGM of the Headscratchers Union. With some horses(well David Pipe’s Ballynagour) entered for as many as six of the handicaps trying to work out what might run where was quite enough for one day.
Jonjo O’Neill’s ShuttheFrontDoor caught this pair of eyes as the view across to Cleeve Hill from the high Grandstand Perch reminded one of a battlefield. It’ll be bookies versus punters over 27 gripping rounds in just a matter of days.
But at least I have backed my first winner at Cheltenham 2013. For every year since I can’t remember one man has stepped forward when questions from the floor are invited at the end of the Press Conference to be first. His role may be different but there was no stopping that nice John McCririck. I lead my mate 1-0- horribly early!
Big Mac can’t wait for Tuesday week- neither can any of us- but first I have to navigate something far more demanding than all those weights- a trip to the Preview Circuit in Ireland!
Mike ‘keep your halo straight’ Vince